I discovered her, first, on December 14. The temperatures, the week before, had been frigid, plummeting to -27 on some days. I had, a couple of times, walked around the pond, breathing hot air into my wool scarf, tied tightly around my mouth and nose. My eye lashes grew icicles. Max, sometimes wound up with cold feet and I would stoop to clear snow from between his pads. On the 14th, the weather seemed better. At the bottom of the slope that edged the football field, I first saw her, recognizing her beak profile as being that of a Northern Shoveler. “What the heck?” I thought to myself.
I had my first experience of closely observing Northern Shovelers on the far side of the fence, last summer, and never did get a good photograph of a Mr. On the other hand, I had several very beautiful encounters, image-wise, with females.
I am not one for making a big deal of things in nature, knowing that, for the most part, nature will find its way. I watched her, thinking that perhaps she had been widowed during the extreme temperatures. Mates will remain where they have suffered loss, for weeks, sometimes months. I had made observations of a mating couple of geese last summer and when one had obviously lost its mate, the bonded partner remained at the same place on the pond for June and most of July. Therefore, I didn’t make any calls for assistance right away. Today, this is my only regret.
Finally, with the vacation approaching and having experienced two days of intensely bitter cold wind, on Frank’s Flats, I decided I should look for sanctuary for little Mrs. What one discovers as one begins to seek support in this city is that sometimes it doesn’t come easy. Without recounting my negative or non-productive experiences, I wish to merely express gratitude for those who did reach out with empathy and concern. First, Bob of Birds Calgary, took the time to research, make inquiries and hook me with other organizations. I’ve followed Birds Calgary for some years now and love the documentation of birds in our community and the narratives that some times surface on the website.
My second communication with Calgary Wilderness Rehabilitation Society, again, functioning mostly on volunteer-steam and funded by donation, seemed to be hopeful, but a New Year’s blast of winter, meant that services were taxed in other areas of need. This was a non-emergency situation. I’m sending on a link to their Wish List, in hopes that this experience of mine might lead to positive change and solicit support for organizations such as these.
In the end, I received the greatest and most professional treatment from the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) and I certainly hope that you might, if this is one of your interests, support this organization. Please spend some time perusing their blog. They were quick, responsive and had a nice flow to their communication; e mail response, phone and on-line website. The City of Calgary 311 on-line request form needs some careful attention in order to become expedient and avoid glitches.
I documented my visits with little Mrs. Sometimes the photos were lovely…sometimes not. Do I regret being obsessive over an injured duck for the past few weeks? No. I learned so much. I regret to report that sometime in the night or the wee hours of morning, a predator did carry and kill Mrs. I followed the edge of the pond, the tracks and the narrative until I found her soft fan of feathers in the snow.
I’m thankful to all my friends and my daughters, for their hearts, ears and suggestions. I love you all for caring. I think that we are all called to action. I think it is easy to get comfortable in our own lives, sometimes. I think that Mrs. is a mere metaphor for ‘the other’…for the marginalized who are living in our own city. It is important that we not become so comfortable that we forget that there are others who are cold, without shelter, circling the small pond of their own lives because it feels as though there is no way out.
I am in gratitude that nature has taught me more.